An increasing number of writers are being dragged (kicking and screaming in some cases) into the 21st century. They’re abandoning the use of pen and paper and starting to embrace the wealth of excellent writing apps currently available, all of which have been designed to make their working lives easier, more efficient and ultimately more enjoyable. As all writers know, penning any text from a short story to a novel, research paper or script is a fragmented process, which involves weaving together various characters, plotlines, ideas, and most probably hundreds of notes scribbled in notebooks scattered around the house or office, into one unified passage of text. Every writer will benefit from an app which will make this task any less arduous than it has to be. The 17 excellent apps explored in detail below guide writers of all types through every stage in the writing process, from initial idea formulation to the final draft and beyond. They perform a wide variety of tasks, including character, plot and story building; story structuring; note making and organising; spelling, grammar and readability checking; and so much more. Take a look and find the apps that are right for you.
1. StoryMill ($49.95)
StoryMill, a piece of writing management software by Mariner for Mac users only, is packed full of great tools including a word frequency meter, cliché meter and progress meter. It offers a distraction-free full-screen word processor and lets you annotate your text quickly and easily. It also provides you with a database of every character, location and scene in your story. You can even display your story along a timeline.
2. Contour ($49.95)
Contour, again by Mariner, again for Mac only, is a story development app especially designed for writers of movie scripts. Contour helps writers follow the same character-based structure favoured by major Hollywood directors. It lets you organize your story more effectively and suggests what should come next based on the most marketable movie scripts.
3. Tinderbox ($229)
Overly complicated for many writers perhaps, Tinderbox is a comprehensive piece of Mac software which helps you organise your notes, plans and ideas. It arranges any notes you make in a highly intuitive manner, letting you organise them by both shape and colour. Tinderbox is expensive, but can prove invaluable when planning a book over a long period of time.
4. Jer’s Novel Writer ($30)
Jer’s Novel Writer, for Mac, helps writers get words down quickly when they’re in full creative flow. Once this flow has dried up, a suite of useful tools can be accessed to convert what’s been written into perfect prose. Tools on offer include a brilliant margin note and bookmark maker as well as a panel for making general notes as you go along.
5. Celtx (free)
Available for both Windows and Mac, Celtx is a powerful and free piece of media pre-production software, ideal for those writing screenplays, stage plays, films, documentaries, comics and much more. Celtx provides the full service. It not only helps you write scripts, storyboards, scenes and sketches, it helps you build interesting characters, schedule productions and even create reports for cast and crew.
6. Scrivener ($39.95)
Scrivener, for Mac, is a fantastic word processor and project management app for writers of long texts. It brings together all the tools a writer might require in one handy application. You can view and edit all text files, image files, PDFs, movies, sound files and web pages from inside Scrivener, researching in one pane while writing in another. Use Scrivener’s Corkboard to write notes, Outline to restructure and view your entire project, and Snapshot to easily revert back to earlier versions of your work.
WriteRoom is a word processor for those who prefer to craft their copy without distractions. WriteRoom for Mac, and Dark Room, its Windows equivalent, offer the simplicity of a typewriter, but in digital form, letting you focus on your writing and nothing else.
8. LaTeX (free)
LaTeX is a typesetting system for those who write technical and scientific papers, but feel restricted by the limited scientific capabilities of standard word processors. It lets writers express mathematic equations, scientific formulae, bibliographies, indexes and more, quickly and easily.
9. PaperToolsPro ($20 per year, $55 for life)
PaperToolsPro is a web subscription service for students and other writers of research papers and other academic documents. It helps you avoid plagiarism by letting you collect quotes, sources and notes in your own words, together. It also speeds up the arduous process of bibliography writing and formatting. Once your work on PaperToolsPro is done, it can quickly be transferred to a word processor.
10. WhiteSmoke Writer (various)
WhiteSmoke Writer is for all those who feel let down by the rather poor spelling and grammar checkers which come as standard on Microsoft Word and other popular word processors. WhiteSmoke will evaluate your grammar, readability, spelling and style, providing useful explanations for any mistakes you make. Versions of WhiteSmoke are available for General Writing, Business, Creative Writing, Bio-Medical Writing and Executive Writing.
11. StyleWriter ($160)
StyleWriter is the world’s most popular writing style and usage checker for Windows users. Once downloaded, it is accessible via the Clipboard in Microsoft Word and Word Perfect. StyleWriter checks your work for thousands of writing faults, including the use of complex words, jargon, hidden verbs, passive verbs, clichés and long sentences. It claims to reduce your word count by 25%.
12. StoryView ($99.95)
StoryView, for Windows, is perfect for writers who like to see a visual take on the structure of their work. StoryView’s timeline format helps you outline, plan, structure and organise your work, saving you lots of time sifting through long passages of text. You can change a sequence of events by clicking and dragging boxes and “size event boxes” can be used to express the duration and importance of different events in your story. You can even import finished stories or scripts wholesale into StoryView to analyze and critique other peoples’ work.
13. EverNote (free, premium for $5 per month)
EverNote is a multi-platform app (Mac, Windows, iPhone, Android, BackBerry etc) which lets you make notes wherever you are, whether at home on your computer or out and about on your mobile, perfect for writers who never know where their next source of inspiration is going to come from. Type a note, grab a screenshot or clipping from a web page, or take a photo, and store them all in one safe place. Organise all these notes in EverNote and find exactly what you’re looking for in seconds.
14. PageFour ($34.95)
PageFour is a word processor built specifically for creative writing. Using PageFour you can write character summaries, plot outlines, chapter summaries and other notes, and access them in seconds while you’re working on a story or novel. You can take Snapshot Copies as you write, which you can revert back to whenever your writing starts to veer off at a tangent. You can even scan your work for overused words and phrases
15. Final Draft ($229)
Final Draft, for Windows and Mac, is a hugely popular piece of screenwriting software used by writers whose work needs to meet certain standards set by the theatre and film industry. It’s endorsed by the Writers Guild of America. The current version, released on 26 October 2009, contains over 50 movie and TV script templates to follow, as well as computer generated voices which can ‘act out’ a script for you.
16. Scripped (free)
Used by over 20,000 writers in 75 countries, Scripped is a great app for those who work from various locations. Scripped lets you write (as well as save and print) a script straight into your web browser, meaning that your work is accessible anywhere in the world. Scripped automatically formats your script according to industry standards.
17. Dramatica Pro ($269.95, currently on sale for $199.99)
Perfect for novel writers, and available for Windows and Mac, Dramatica Pro poses a set of questions about each of your characters and plots to help you structure your vision for your novel. It also helps you incorporate all of your characters, plots, events and themes into acts, scenes and chapters, creating a seamless story. Dramatica Pro users are granted access to a vibrant online community who will discuss and critique your work with you if you so wish.